About Antonio Esfandiari

Antonio Esfandiari
Name Antonio Esfandiari
Current Residence San Francisco Calif.
Birth Place Tehran , IR

Who has more tricks up their sleeve than a magician? One of poker's most interesting players, Antonio Esfandiari, formerly a profession magician, is a bona fide superstar in the card-playing community.

Originally from Tehran, Iran, Esfandiari moved to the United States with his parents in 1988. Esfandiari knew very little English when he started school in his new home but learned the language in less than six months.

Growing up in the San Jose area, Esfandiari was a model student until he hit 12th grade. Esfandiari got heavily involved with the party scene and moved away from home when he was only 17. He soon had an apartment of his own, which he paid for by working as a waiter. His place quickly became party central and his last year of high school suffered as a result.

It was while Esfandiari was waiting tables that he got his first taste of magic. Between tables Esfandiari saw the bartender perform a magic trick. He was so impressed he went straight to the nearest magic shop and asked how the trick was done. The store owner quickly showed Esfandiari the method behind the trick. Esfandiari began throwing magic into his waitering gig, performing for tips, and eventually dropped the waitering part altogether. "Magic Antonio" was able to pull in $300 to $400 an hour just doing magic.

At that time Esfandiari had a roommate who was a professional poker player. One day, at his roommate's suggestion, Esfandiari tried his hand at poker. Despite technically being too young to play he found a way to win money in the first tournament he entered. Esfandiari was hooked and soon, in addition to making rabbits disappear as a magician, he was making other people's money disappear as a poker player.

Later in his career Esfandiari would talk about how the two professions complemented each other. He said that as a magician he learned to gauge human behavior and he was able to use that skill when he moved on to cards.

Just as Esfandiari was getting into high-stakes poker he met a fellow player by the name of Phil Laak. They were sharing a table at the WSOP and Esfandiari was wowing the other players with his magic tricks. Laak was actually trying to figure the tricks out and this irked Esfandiari. Esfandiari moved to another table but Laak followed him there as well. Eventually they started talking and became quick friends.

Laak, who is also known as the Unabomber, ended up coming out to the Bay Area to visit Esfandiari and by the time he left they had agreed to share a place. Ironically both players would go on to attain fame on the poker circuit.

In 2002 Esfandiari made a name for himself at the WPT 49'er Gold Rush Bonanza by getting under Phil Hellmuth's skin and eventually placing third for $44,000. It was the first major tournament win for Esfandiari, but more were soon to come. A year later he made the final table of the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament at the 2003 WSOP.

Finally in 2004 Esfandiari cemented his place in poker history at the L.A. Poker Classic in Los Angeles. The magician performed some poker magic when he beat out 382 (including Vinny Vinh in heads-up play) to win the massive $1.4 million first-place prize. At the time Esfandiari was the youngest player ever to win a WPT event.

Esfandiari bought a Dodge Viper and an Armani suit with the prize money and hasn't looked back.

Several months after the L.A. classic Esfandiari once again struck gold, this time at the WSOP. He beat Phil Nguyen in the $2,000 Pot-Limit Event to take home a gold bracelet and $184,860.

It was around that time that Esfandiari finally moved to Las Vegas permanently. Since then he's been a huge part of the poker scene.

Esfandiari has maintained his high-profile image by writing books, appearing in video games and even making an instructional DVD. He has also appeared on television in shows like High Stakes Poker and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Esfandiari, along with Laak, also starred in the reality show I Bet on You.

It's even rumored that for $1,000 Esfandiari can be hired to give a tour of the nightlife of Las Vegas.

Known for his flashy lifestyle and fantastic chip tricks, the "Magician" will probably be dazzling competitors and railbirds for years to come, whether with his card-playing ability or his magic tricks.

Trivia


  • Grew up in San Jose
  • Professional magician
  • Hopes to open a magic-theme restaurant
  • Was once roommates with good friend Phil Laak

Antonio Esfandiari recent tournament placings

Place Winnings Tournament
45 $2,560 WSOP APAC 2014, Event 1 - $1,100 Accumulator
270 $2,630 WSOP 2014, Event 62 - Little One for One Drop
4 $1,433,438 WSOP 2013, Event 47: One Drop High Roller
139 $2,111 WSOP 2013, Event 34: $1,000 Turbo No-Limit Hold'em
51 $7,071 WSOP 2013, Event 21: $3,000 6-Max No-Limit Hold'em
48 $7,384 WSOP 2013, Event 9: $3,000 Shootout
43 $9,743 WSOP 2013, Event 2: $5,000 8-Max No-Limit Hold'em
9 $65,408 WSOP APAC 2013, $10,000 Main Event
501 $24,808 WSOP 2012, $10,000 Main Event
1 $18,346,673 WSOP 2012, Event #55: $1 Million Big One for One Drop
3 $151,613 WSOP 2012, Event #36: $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout
12 $34,139 WSOP 2012, Event #17: $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em
16 $20,674 WSOP 2012, Event #12: $10,000 Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em
329 $2,895 WSOP 2012, Event #9: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Re-entry
44 $4,011 WSOP 2012, Event #5: $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em
7 $58,288 WSOP 2011, Event 45 - $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
1 $870,124 WPT - Season 9, Bellagio Five Diamond
73 $4,504 WSOP 2010, Event 47 - $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
30 $17,987 WSOP 2010, Event 35 - $10k Heads-Up Championship
12 $49,024 WSOP 2010, Event 17 - $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em
211 $2,880 WSOP 2010, Event 5 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold
23 $28,569 WPT Season 8, Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic
24 $352,832 2009 WSOP, Event 57 - $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship
24 $14,967 2009 WSOP, Event 52 - $3,000 Triple Chance No-Limit Hold'em
59 $23,420 WPT Season 7, Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic
53 $14,438 2008 WSOP, Event 25, World Championship Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em
8 €168,000 EPT Season 4, EPT Grand Final
62 $9,708 2007 WSOP, Event 35, No-Limit Hold'em
39 $11,905 2007 WSOP, Event 8, No-Limit Hold’em w/Re-Buys
43 $6,570 2005 WSOP, Event 13, $5,000 No-limit Hold'em
5 $63,020 2005 WSOP, Event 6, $2,500 Short-handed no-limit Hold'em
6 $8,000 WPT Season 2, WPT Invitational
1 $1,399,135 WPT Season 2, L.A. Poker Classic
5 $0 WPT Specials, WPT Bad Boys
3 $44,000 WPT Season 1 , Gold Rush